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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: North Bay / Marin | Environment & Forest Defense
Drakes Bay Oyster Company Repeated Coastal Act Violations Trigger Enforcement Action
The California Coastal Commission has initiated enforcement proceedings against Drakes Bay Oyster Company for illegal coastal development, violation of harbor seal protection measures, and failure to control significant amounts of its plastic pollution.
Oyster Company’s Repeated Coastal Act Violations Trigger Enforcement Action
Coastal Commission Initiates Cease and Desist Order, Seeks Collection of Fines
Point Reyes, CA – The California Coastal Commission has initiated enforcement proceedings against Drakes Bay Oyster Company for illegal coastal development, violation of harbor seal protection measures, and failure to control significant amounts of its plastic pollution. The controversial company has failed to comply with the terms of a 2007 cease and desist order, pay fines imposed in 2009 for illegal activities, or correct ongoing violations of the California Coastal Act. The company's permit to operate in Point Reyes National Seashore's Drakes Estero will expire on November 30th, but the company is seeking an unprecedented new permit.
The Coastal Commission's letter states that “despite repeated meetings and discussion…as well as two formal hearings before the Commission and the issuance of two Orders regarding this property,” the oyster company “has continued repeatedly to engage in activities without first obtaining the requisite Coastal Act authorization, and has continued to violate the explicit terms and conditions of the previously issued orders.”
“Point Reyes National Seashore and its ecological heart, Drakes Estero, deserve much better. The oyster company’s egregious record of noncompliance with the Coastal Act and its operating permit is simply unacceptable,” said Amy Trainer with the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “Interior Secretary Salazar should let the oyster company's permit expire as long-intended, and implement the federal designation of the West Coast’s first marine wilderness area at Drakes Estero.”
Drakes Bay Oyster Company was formed in 2005 when it bought the remaining seven years on the commercial operating permit from the original owner. The October 24th Coastal Commission enforcement letter highlights a seven-year history of violations and numerous attempts by the Commission to try to bring the oyster operation into Coastal Act compliance, to no effect. The Commission notes that Drakes Estero includes coastal resources that are “ecologically significant and susceptible to degradation from the ongoing development, marine debris, and motorized vessel use” of the oyster operation.
The Commission enforcement letter follows three prior letters over the past year rebuking the oyster company for violations and flatly rejecting the oyster company's excuses for repeated failure to adhere to harbor seal protections agreed to in its operating permit. Violations of the Coastal Act can bring penalties of up to $30,000 for each violation and up to $15,000 per day for knowingly committing violations of unpermitted development or operations.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has unprecedented discretion to honor the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act or to issue a new commercial permit within the wilderness area at Drakes Estero for ten years. More than 90 percent of the 52,000 public comments on the Park Service’s draft environmental review of the oyster operation impacts opposed a new permit and supported wilderness status for the estuary. National conservation groups including NRDC, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and National Parks Conservation Association, as well as world-renowned scientists and marine ecologists Sylvia Earle, E.O. Wilson and Jean-Michel Cousteau have all urged Secretary Salazar to let the commercial lease expire and allow full wilderness protection for Drakes Estero this year.
For more information visit: http://www.savepointreyeswilderness.org.